On June 30, after splitting a four-game series with the Dodgers at Coors Field, the Rockies were 44-40 and in the thick of the wild-card hunt. On July 31, after a 6-19 collapse that ranks as the worst calendar month in franchise history, their playoff dreams were a mirage.
“It’s been tough baseball to watch,” general manager Jeff Bridich said. “We have to own this. It’s frustrating because it’s the same group of guys. And we have our health. Injuries are not a part of this. So we have to own this and learn from it. I don’t think anybody saw this coming. I certainly didn’t, not to this degree.”
I’ll be honest, although I picked the Dodgers to win the National League West, I thought the Rockies were a legitimate playoff team capable of doing some damage in the postseason if they got hot. I think the players believed that, too.
So what went wrong? Here’s my list:
- Their pitching disintegrated. With southpaw Kyle Freeland failing to rediscover his 2018 mojo, German Marquez opening July with three bad starts and a cursed bullpen throwing batting practice at Coors Field, Colorado posted a 6.63 ERA in July, the worst in the majors and fourth-highest for a single month in Rockies history. Bad pitching was the root cause of Colorado’s demise.
- The Rockies’ offense was pedestrian, at best, in July. Overall, Colorado hit .251, which ranked eighth in the NL. It ranked 10th in runs scored (107), 11th in slugging percentage (.418), 12th in on-base percentage (.310) and 14th in home runs (26).
- All-star third baseman Nolan Arenado, the key piston in the engine, had a bad month. He hit .247 with five extra-base hits (two home runs, three doubles) and posted a .654 OPS.
“I’ve gotta look at myself in the mirror. I can’t point fingers at anybody,” he said last week. “Everyone goes through slumps and goes through struggles, and I’ve gone through one at the wrong time; when the team probably needed me most.”
The Rockies were a tired, sluggish team in July. It’s not an excuse, but it’s the truth. I think the long, protracted, ugly games at Coors Field when the weather got hot in late June and early July caught up to them.
“It’s fair to say that, during the streak where we’ve lost a lot of games, guys have been a little bit tired,” Arenado said. “These games have been really long, and I think it’s been a mental and physical toll. Because we haven’t had games like this (at Coors) for 2 ½, three years.”
Said manager Bud Black: “Ultimately, it’s no excuse, but it’s been our lot, something that we’ve had to live with.”
The Rockies’ defense was pedestrian last month — a .985 fielding percentage, eighth in the NL — well below what Black expected. There were plenty of mental errors, too.
“The last couple of years, we’ve been a really, really good defensive team that’s very sound,” he said early in the month. “But lately, there’s been some chinks in the armor here that we have to clean up.”
The Rockies are, in my opinion, a team filled with grinders and hard workers. That’s an admirable trait, most of the time. But when the losses mounted, the Rockies gripped the bats tighter and tried harder. The Rockies miss the levity, silliness, and perspective that players such as Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra brought to the clubhouse.